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Monday, October 17, 2005

Why do we have an upper chamber?

Villains: Countryside AlliancePro-hunting supporters have failed in their attempt to have the ban on hunting with dogs in England overturned by having the 1949 Parliament Act ruled unlawful.
In a modern civilised society we really shouldn't be getting our kicks by ripping the local fauna apart with attack dogs and smearing ourselves in its blood just for a laugh. Most people would rather this sort of thing didn't go on and so the government introduced a bill to put a stop to it. So far so democratic.
However, the bill to ban hunting with dogs in England and Wales was repeatedly blocked by the unelected, unrepresentative House of "Lords" and so the government invoked the Parliament Act. The Parliament Act basically sticks two fingers up at the upper chamber and says "it doesn't matter what you think, we're doing it anyway".
The bloodthirsty hunters, however, didn't like that. They thought it was a downright liberty and launched a legal challenge. Predictably, they lost.
Whining about the judgment, Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance said: "This judgment effectively gives the House of Commons the freedom - with no checks and balances - to do what it wants, to whom it wants, when it wants… it sets a dangerous, anti-democratic precedent."
No. What it does is to bolster democracy by ensuring that the will of the elected chamber prevails. Democracy is a fairly woolly concept these days, but most take it to mean something along the lines of government by the will of the people (that's why the "elected" bit matters). Not government by the will of troublesome toffs and political appointees.